GOP floats amendments blocking Obama admin on Grand Canyon, coal ash

Posted: Feb 19, 2012

Written by

MANUEL QUINONES, Greenwire
Grand Canyon

Arizona House Republicans have offered an amendment that would undo the Obama administration's recently finalized ban on new hardrock mining claims on roughly 1 million acres around Grand Canyon National Park.

Reps. Trent Franks, Jeff Flake and Paul Gosar are hoping to attach the rider to the $260 billion infrastructure and energy production package up for debate this week.

Franks is the lead sponsor of a similar stand-alone bill, H.R. 3155, to undo the mining withdrawal. The House Natural Resources Committee could vote on the bill in the coming weeks.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is leading the fight in the Senate, but he may have trouble getting past one key gatekeeper -- Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who in a recent interview said, "I do support the administration's position."

Knowing their Senate chances are slim this year, sponsors will be trying their luck with amendments to must-pass legislation like the transportation package.

"Anything that we can do to promote the legislation we will," Franks said in a recent interview.

A separate amendment by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) would prohibit the Obama administration from labeling fossil fuel combustion waste -- called coal ash -- as a hazardous substance.

McKinley, one of the strongest coal advocates on Capitol Hill, helped shepherd legislation (H.R. 2273) through the House to create a system for coal ash disposal. A Senate version is pending.

The House Rules Committee meets this evening to discuss the dozens of amendments filed to the energy and infrastructure bill. It is unclear whether either the Grand Canyon or coal ash measures will be allowed a floor vote.



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